Voices: Michael Lahoud

The curious case of Frankie Amaya

Frankie Amaya on ball

It was easy for the news to have been lost amid soccer's own Super Tuesday. With European soccer in turmoil, there was enough drama in the soccer world that even CNN’s famed presidential election news anchor, John King, would have had a hard time keeping up with everything.

Amid the fallout from the disintegrating Super League came the news that the New York Red Bulls had acquired midfielder Frankie Amaya from FC Cincinnati. But what makes this move a head turner isn’t the fact that it happened, it’s the fact that it’s happening now.

The Frankie Amaya saga, or Amayagate, as some FC Cincinnati fans are calling it, kicked off earlier this year. On February 11, MLS media platforms exploded with news that FC Cincinnati had just splashed some major cash on Sao Paulo’s young starlet, Brenner. It was a moment of redemption for Cincy fans that was supposed to mark the start of a new era for the club. Then, hours later, the unthinkable happened. The Athletic's Jeff Rueter and Paul Tenorio dropped the news that Amaya, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, wanted out of Cincinnati.

“I’ve given everything to Cincinnati and the fans over the last two years…During the offseason, I’ve realized that the club doesn’t have the same level of commitment to me, so I’ve asked the club to trade me as I don’t feel my goals can be achieved in Cincinnati...,” said Amaya in a public statement.

With a new stadium set to be unveiled in May and the pressure mounting to deliver a winning product on the field, this is a deal that had to get done and die-hard fans like Cincy Soccer Talk’s founder and host, Nick Seuberling agree.

“When the news first broke that Frankie wanted out of Cincinnati, you knew there was really only going to be one outcome," he said. "I’m honestly surprised the deal was made this soon. The deal is a win-win for both FC Cincinnati and Frankie."

New team. New contract. New Frankie?

New York Red Bulls fans will certainly be hoping so. Amaya was brought into MLS as an attacking midfielder to express himself in the final third. Although he logged a lot of minutes last year, he spent a large amount of his playing time as a box-to-box midfielder. He showed flashes of the player he has the potential of becoming, when he scored a blinder of a game-winning goal in the group stages of the MLS is Back Tournament when he was playing in a more advanced midfielder position against Atlanta United.

But with a new contract, comes greater responsibility. Amaya got his wish and has landed himself with a Red Bulls team in the midst of major rebuilding themselves. The once dominant, Supporters' Shield winning side have lost a little bit of their luster over the past few years. It showed with dull displays and a loss of a clear team identity throughout last season. However, the introduction of new head coach Gerard Struber, who has a reputation for developing young talent for nearly a decade, and the team’s obvious void at the attacking midfield position, should have Frankie chomping at the bit to get going with his new team.

New teammates and coaching staff will be hoping for more than just hard work and almost moments. He’ll need to deliver on that potential by getting more comfortable playing in tight spaces higher up the field, and creating chances for himself, fellow newcomers Fabio and Patryk Kilmala as well as teenage sensation Caden Clark.

And Clark, who only seems to score golazos, cutting in from the left side of the field, is in need of a playmaker in the middle of the park to spot his well-timed runs in behind opposing defenses. If Frankie can also find Clark in pockets of space in-and-around the top of the box to unleash that cannon ball of a shot of his, then New York’s attack will be given a new dimension.

Now that Amaya’s move from the Queen City to the Big Apple is official, he’ll get his first chance to show MLS fans what he’s all about on Sunday against the new-look LA Galaxy (5:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes). After all that money spent on him (almost $1 million in Allocation Money), the Red Bulls will be counting on the Southern California native to be the centerpiece of a new offensive trio in the making. And the player Cincinnati fans were once hoping would become the Skyline Frankie, Red Bulls fans will be hoping to become the Coney Island Amaya.